Twaddle – Fixed odds are hooking kids

Published in the Sunday Mail 19 May 2013


A FORMER SPL star who blew over £1 million on gambling has backed calls to tackle big money jackpot machines in bookies.


Former St Johnstone, Hearts and Motherwell player Kevin Twaddle believes fixed odds betting terminals encourage youngsters to gamble.


Described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling, FOTBs allow players to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on roulette, poker and blackjack.

Twaddle, 41, suffered from a gambling addiction which was laid bare when the Sunday Mail serialised his biography Life on the Line last year.

H’s now teamed up with Midlothian Council and Gamblers Anonymous (GA) to run help sessions which started last week in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian. He said: “These machines are bringing so many youngsters through the doors, it is unbelievable.

“GA have a core of about 10 kids who come into pur meetings every week. It is quite alarming watching all these younger people coming in.”

We revealed the scourge of FOBTs in some of Scotland’s poorest areas and growing calls to ban them from bookies.

A study claimed that gamblers in Scotland spend the equivalent of £1000 a year for every man and woman in the country.

At the height of his gambling addiction, Twaddle stole his dying gran’s life savings.

His habit eventually drove him to the brink of suicide.

He now helps fellow gambling addicts.

He said: “People know me from playing football or having read my book.

“If this helps people to come forward and I can use my background to help others then great.

“Hope is the biggest thing that I took from my first GA meeting. But you have to have something about you to want to give up, a bit of desire to make your life better.”










Professor Goldblatt to be turned into a firework

Published in the Scotsman 2 February  2013

A PROFESSOR has decided to go out with a bang – by paying to have his ashes turned into a giant firework.


Professor Joe Goldblatt has already decided to donate his body to medical science. But the Texan-born academic has decided to go a step further by having his mortal remains blasted across the skies of Edinburgh.

Prof Goldblatt, executive director of the International Centre for the Study of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University, says he plans to turn his death into the “ultimate event”.

He has organised for what the medical students leave to be ­cremated and placed in a 12 in pyrotechnic shell.

The academic, originally from Dallas, has charged his two sons with the job of sending him out in style as the final explosion in a funeral fireworks display.

Prof Goldblatt has donated his body to the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomy Department.

The 60-year-old, who has arranged functions for US presidents Ronald Regan and George W Bush and tycoon Donald Trump, claims that his wife, Nancy, and sons have been fully supportive of his decision.

He said: “The reaction has been 100 per cent positive about me donating my body. The only feedback has been in the form of questions over what happens about a funeral and with my ­remains.

“As far as a funeral is concerned, it takes place as normal but without a body. As for my remains, I will be cremated once the medical people have finished with me.”

Prof Goldblatt said that a portion of ashes would go to mausoleum in New Orleans and the rest kept in Scotland to be “placed in a 12 in pyrotechnic shell and turned into a firework”.

“I have explained that I intend to turn it into the ultimate event,” he said. “By being the last firework launched, people will be able to say: ‘There goes good old Joe one last time.’”

Fellow American Hunter S Thompson appears to have started the trend for pyrotechnic funerals. In 2005, the gonzo journalist’s ashes were loaded into a huge cannon and set off over his home in Aspen, Colorado, in an event paid for by actor Johnny Depp.

Actor James Doohan, who played engineer “Scotty” in Star Trek, went a step further by having his ashes blasted into orbit on board a rocket in May last year.

Prof Goldblatt said he was inspired to donate his body to science by his mother, Rosa, who gifted her body to the Baylor Medical School in Texas when she died in 1997.

He said: “At my age, life is becoming more precarious in terms of illness and ultimately death on the horizon and I saw how easy, simple and dignified it was for my mother.”

Edinburgh University’s Anatomy Department is one of the country’s leading medical centres and is currently given around 50 bodies a year which are used to train medical ­students.

Professor Gordon Findlater, senior lecturer in Transition of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh, said the number of people donating their bodies is increasing. He added: “At the moment, we get about 50 every year and have inquiries every day.”

Edinburgh council facing compensation battle over injured cyclists

Published in the Daily Mail 23 November 2012

TRAM lines in Edinburgh have caused injuries to more than 70 cyclists who are now demanded more over £1m in compensation, it emerged today.

Cycle lanes in Princes Street have been painted on top of the tram lines and riders keep falling off after their wheels get lodged in the track.

Several cyclists are set to sue the city and the lawyers representing them claim the situation is a “a fatality waiting to happen”.


According to a report published by Thompsons solicitors, 74 cyclists have suffered accidents since 2009.

The firm says it is a “disgrace” that despite the number of accidents, Edinburgh is sticking with shared tram and cycle lanes.

Patrick McGuire, a partner with Thompsons, said: “The situation in and around Princes Street is a fatality waiting to happen.

“In all the cases we are dealing with if the cyclist had been subsequently hit by a vehicle after falling from their bike then it is possible they wouldn’t be here today.

“It is a disgrace that the council is continuing to bury its head in the sand and is refusing to implement simple safety measures to ensure the city centre is a safe place for all who use it.”

Among the victims is cyclist Sara Reed, 40, who has been cycling in the capital for 20 years.


She fell off her bike and fractured her collarbone on Princes Street on October 23 when her wheel lodged in a tram line. She said: “I was lucky a taxi didn’t hit me when I fell, but the force of the crash meant that I broke my collarbone and sustained a head injury, despite wearing a helmet.” Reed slammed the local authority for not taking action to prevent accidents like hers.

She said: “It is staggering that Edinburgh City Council knows that many cyclists are having accidents as a direct result of tram tracks and have taken no action. “Edinburgh is no longer a safe place for cyclists – people are getting seriously injured and the council needs to resolve the situation before someone is killed.”

Cycling organisations have backed Mr McGuire’s calls for safety measures.

These include the removal of shared tram and bicycle lanes, marking all tram line crossings, appropriate lighting, and better signage. They point out that when Nottingham installed a tram network in 2004 the city put up warning signs and provided alternative cycle routes.

Chris Field, chair of the Cyclists Defence Fund, claims the number of accidents is even higher.

He said: “Local cycle campaigners had repeatedly voiced concerns about the hazards of Edinburgh’s new tram scheme.

“It is now all too clear that they were right – over 80 cyclists have been injured in Edinburgh’s main street and the trams haven’t even started running yet.”

In Blackpool, pedestrians and cyclists are not allowed to enter areas where trams run for safety reasons. However, Edinburgh transport bosses have insisted that their precautions are adequate.

A council spokeswoman said: “Experience of other European cities shows that trams and cyclists can exist safely together.

“It’s a priority to improve safety right across the city and the council’s coalition agreement commitment to invest 5 per cent of the transport budget on provision for cyclists will help us achieve this.

“We lead a cycle forum where we discuss the safe development of cycling in the city with cyclists themselves but we’re always happy to listen to new suggestions and ideas.”

Son who saved dad honoured

A 15 year old schoolboy who helped save his father’s life after a bike accident has received an award from the Lothian and Borders Police.

Andy Duncan, 49,who had to be airlifted to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, suffered two heart attacks and three brain haemorrhages after the incident. Doctors believe that it was the quick thinking and actions of his son Fraser Duncan, who was 12 at the time, and three of his friends that saved his life.

The accident happened in August 2009 when Fraser went cycling with his friends Stuart Anderson, who was 14 and brother and sister Charlie and Lucy Finlayson, then 14 and 12. The youngster had forgotten his cycling helmet so his mother Linda dispatched her husband to deliver it.

After handing his son the helmet Mr Duncan, who was not wearing one, went over the handlebars of his bike.

It was then that the four youngsters sprung into action using Mr Duncan’s mobile phone to contact emergency services. Fraser and Stuart stayed with the victim while Charlie and Lucy went onto the main road to guide the ambulance to the isolated location.

It was during this period that Fraser claims that Stuart became the real hero of the story. He said: “Stuart was a lifesaver, he became the team captain, giving us all tasks and keeping us calm, especially me.”

Fraser suffered from nightmares for over a year after the accident, blaming himself for events. However, his father is in no doubt that his sons actions helped save his life.

Mr Duncan said: “In my mind there are three reasons why I am standing here today. Firstly I had my mobile phone with me as none of the kids had one, secondly an air ambulance was available to take me to hospital and most importantly these four.”

The fact that Mr Duncan had his mobile phone with him was a stroke of luck as his wife Linda, 47 explained: “After Andy left I noticed that he had left his phone behind. “I ran out after him and gave him it. Normally he puts everything in his right pocket but that day for some reason he put it in his left pocket.

He fell on his right side so it would probably have been smashed if it was in that pocket. We feel like someone was looking down on us that day.”

Mr Duncan who works as  a senior project manager in Edinburgh returned to work six months after the accident which had left him in a coma for almost a month. Doctors described this recovery time as “miraculous” as they had initially doubted whether Mr Duncan would ever be able to walk again.

Fraser and Stuart have formed a particularly strong bond in the wake of the incident. Fraser said: “After the accident me and my little sister Rachel went to stay with Stuart’s family and he was our rock and he is now a very close family friend.”

The four each received a meritorious award from the Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police David Strang. Other recipients of awards at the event at the forces Fettes headquarters included Peebles man Robin Waddell who gave life-saving CPR to a one year old girl outside his home.

Council graffiti stunt backfires

Appeared in the Daily Record 17 November 2012

A HIGH-profile bid to bust graffiti ended with red faces after a cherry picker broke down – leaving two council workers stranded 40ft above the ground for two hours.

Edinburgh Council summoned journalists to the stunt in Leith where they were launching a big clean-up effort.

But a mechanical fault with the cherry picker left two “specialist cleansing staff” stranded high above the streets before they had deployed their brushes.

The event was scrapped after officials were unable to fix the problem and the two men were left in the air for two hours, next to a Tesco store in the city’s Duke Street, awaiting rescue.

As officials scratched their heads wondering how to get their employees down, the men had to suffer taunts from highly-amused colleagues.

Neither of the men – both called Dave – wished to comment on their predicament.

Over the two hours a string of council vehicles was summoned  to attempt to get the cherry picker working, but were unable to assist their stricken colleagues.

Eventually a second cherry picker was dispatched and successfully lowered the pair to safety.

The event was part of a three week event which plans to improve the appearance of the streets of Leith. It aims to remove graffiti, stickers, posters and cable ties from buildings and structures such as  bus stops, lamp posts, phone boxes and post boxes in the area.

City Environment Convener Lesley Hinds had praised the initiative. She said: “One of our key commitments of the Capital Coalition is to maintain and improve the quality of life in Edinburgh and Shipshape Leith is a fine example of this in action.”

The council had also  made Friday volunteer day, calling for local residents to come along and help out with the clean-up operation.

A Council spokesman said: “Shipshape Leith was a great success today with nearly 50 people, including many volunteers, helping to clean up the streets. The project is continuing for the next two weeks and I’m happy to report that the two staff on the cherry picker which broke down are safely back on ground level and the graffiti will be cleared soon.”

UV lamp leaves two pensioners with facial burns

Published in the Scotsman, Herald and Daily Record on 10/11/2012

TWO pensioners have been taken to hospital with burns to their faces and eyes after apparently using a UV tanning lamp to heat their home.

An ambulance crew discovered the pair, both in their 70s, after being called to a tenement in the Gorgie area of Edinburgh at around 7.30am today.

Rescue workers found that a UV lamp designed for short tanning sessions had been left on for up to five hours to try to warm the property.

oth men, in their 70s, were taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary by ambulance where they are still being treated for their injuries.

One of the injured men was named locally as 74-year-old Robert McCartney.

A neighbour in Wheatfield Road, who did not want to be named, said: “The first I knew about it was when the gas man came this morning to check for carbon monoxide.

“I was a bit worried and the next thing I knew there was an ambulance.

“I never actually saw the two men go into the ambulance though.”

She added:“I don’t really know him [Mr McCartney] well but I know who he is. He keeps himself to himself.”

Mr McCartney used to enjoy a drink in Station Tavern on Gorgie Road.

A member of bar staff, who did not want to be named, said: “He comes in here occasionally and sits in the corner with his half pint.”


Mr McCartney recently featured in an article about the area on the local council news website.

He revealed he had worked for the cleansing department for 18 years.

He added: “There’s good shopping and it’s handy for my club. It’s too busy, too much traffic and some people fly-tip.”

A spokeswoman for the ambulance service said: “We believe a heater was left on for a few hours, I think to get some heat.

“They left them on for a few hours and when they woke up they had burns to their faces and eyes.”

She added: “They were both taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after complaining of problems in seeing.

“As far as I’m aware no other people were involved.”

At the flat today there was still a strong smell of gas coming from the property.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue said: “People first thought it to be a gas leak but it turned out that there was no leak at the property.

“Two elderly gentlemen in their 70s had injuries to their face and eyes after the misuse of UV lamps.

“A fire crew from Sighthill attended the incident.”


Age Concern Scotland said that many elderly people find winter a difficult time to try and heat their homes.

He said:”Obviously we are very concerned about the increasing costs of paying for heating bills.

“A lot of older people have a too low income, and finding heating for winter can be a bit of a dilemma on how to actually stay warm.”

He added: “I’ve never heard of somebody using a UV lamp before to heat their house. They need to look for help. You can receive benefits, pension credits or winter fuel payments.

“So really, if someone is worried about paying bills, get help.”

Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light can cause severe sun burning and lead to some forms of skin cancer.

Prolonged exposure can also affect the eyes and immune system.

Many tanning salons recommend a maximum exposure on tanning beds of just 12 minutes.

Robinson picks Gray for All Blacks test

Richie Gray
(Credit: Scottish Rugby Union)

Published EN4 News on 8/11/2012

Richie Gray is declared fit for Scotland duty while scrum half Harry Pyrgos could win his first cap at the weekend.

Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has brushed aside injury concerns surrounding giant second row Richie Gray ahead of Sunday’s clash with New Zealand at Murrayfield.

Gray and fellow lock Jim Hamilton were both doubtful before the team was announced but Robinson insists that both will be ready to play the worlds champions. He said: “I’m not going to put anyone there who cannot be at 100% in terms of their physicality and their attitude.”

Behind the scrum Edinburgh scrum half starts at stand off after missing Edinburgh’s last two games. Robinson dismissed suggestions that Laidlaw may be under-prepared for such a daunting game. He said: “Greig has been doing the contact work but I didn’t want him to play [for Edinburgh} last Friday as I felt the work we were doing as a team and the intensity that we had in training and the pressure he would be under would be ideal preparation.”

Glasgow prop Ryan Grant and Edinburgh’s Dutch born winger Tim Visser will both be making their first appearance for Scotland at Murrayfield. Meanwhile Grant’s club team-mate Henry Pyrgos is the only uncapped player in the match-day squad.

Explaining the scrum-half’s selection on the bench ahead of the vastly experienced Rory Lawson, Robinson claimed the move was done with one eye on the future. He said: “We have three scrum-halves who are 30 and above so it is about seeing young nine coming through and that is why Henry got the nod ahead of Rory.”

Kelly Brown will captain Scotland for the first time in the match on what will be his 50th cap. The Saracens number eight will be looking to do what no Scotland skipper has done in the past – lead his side to a victory over New Zealand.

Listen to Andy Robinson on his pack selection

Scotland team to play New Zealand in the EMC Test at Murrayfield on Sunday 11 November, kick-off 2.30pm

15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) 7 caps, 1 try, 5 points

14 Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) 68 caps, 8 tries, 40 points
13 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby) 35 caps, 1 try, 5 points
12 Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby) 4 caps
11 Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps, 2 tries, 10 points

10 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby) 10 caps, 2 tries, 8 conversions, 15 penalties, 71 points
9 Mike Blair (Brive) 83 caps, 7 tries, 35 points

1 Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors) 3 caps
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) 61 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
3 Geoff Cross (Edinburgh Rugby) 14 caps
4 Richie Gray (Sale Sharks) 24 caps, 1 try, 5 points
5 Jim Hamilton (Gloucester) 39 caps, 1 try, 5 points
6 Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) 28 caps, 1 try, 5 points
7 Ross Rennie (Edinburgh Rugby) 19 caps
8 Kelly Brown (Saracens) CAPTAIN 49 caps, 4 tries, 20 points


16 Scott Lawson (London Irish) 34 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
17 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh Rugby) 64 caps
18 Kyle Traynor (Bristol Rugby) 3 caps
19 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) 44 caps, 1 try, 5 points
20 David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby) 6 caps
21 Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) uncapped
22 Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) 13 caps, 2 conversions, 2 penalties, 2 drop-goals, 16 points
23 Max Evans (Castres) 30 caps, 3 tries, 15 points

Independent Scotland will gain automatic entry to Europe, says top EC expert

Graham Avery

An independent Scotland will continue to be a member of the European Union (EU) and will not have to re-apply according to Graham Avery, Honorary Director-General of the European Commission and Senior Adviser at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

Mr Avery, one of the UK’s most experienced academic authorities on European affairs, has provided written evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee at Westminster. In it he states: “Scotland’s five million people, having been members of the EU for 40 years, have acquired rights as European citizens.

“For practical and political reasons they could not be asked to leave the EU and apply for readmission.”

The report goes on to cite other EU states as parallels saying: “The point can be illustrated by considering another example: if a break-up of Belgium were agreed between Wallonia and Flanders, it is inconceivable that other EU members would require 11 million people to leave the EU and then reapply for membership.”

Avery’s submission claims that precedents have been set regarding changing entry criteria in special circumstances saying: “As in the case of German reunification, the EU would adopt a simplified procedure under which the Commission would be asked to conduct exploratory talks with Edinburgh, London and other capitals, and submit proposals. Although an intergovernmental conference would be needed, it would not be of the kind that handles accession negotiations with non-member countries.”

The findings were welcomed by Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland who said: “This is an extremely significant and important contribution from an eminent and vastly-experienced European policy adviser.

‘People in Scotland should be reassured that an independent Scotland will remain a member of the European Union.”

Political Wrangle

The report follows calls from Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie for first minister Alex Salmond to clarify an independent Scotland’s EU membership. He said “The SNP have been guessing that Scotland would continue in the European Union on the same terms. But Scotland deserves facts, not more guesswork.

“If the SNP is wrong the consequences could be severe – including being forced to join the Euro, accept Schengen and lose the rebate.”

Rennie went on to highlight the possibility that Spain may seek to block Scotland’s membership. He added: “If the Spanish veto an independent Scotland’s smooth transition to the EU in 2015 it will be too late for Scotland to turn back. We simply can’t wait until 2015 for a Spanish veto; we need to know before the referendum.”

The Liberal Democrat leader’s statement had been preceded by a stormy First Minister’s Questions where Rennie backed Labour leader Johann Lamont’s proposal for an independent judicial review into whether Salmond had lied over taking legal advice on an independent Scotland joining the European Union.

However, former Labour first minister Henry Mcleish poured scorn on such a review claiming that the Labour leader had her priorities wrong. He said: “I think our energy, our focus could be used in better ways because at the end of the day this is unlikely to happen. There are far more important areas where Labour could win many converts and score political goals.”

Speaking on STV’s Scotland Tonight programme Mcleish also claimed that while Salmond had mishandled the affair he did not think that the first minister had lied. He said: “I don’t think he’s misled. But he hasn’t handled the situation well.”

Original here

SNP conference opportunity for Michael Yellowlees

Michael Yellolees

When the SNP conference closed in Perth earlier this month the last person on the platform wasn’t First Minister Alex Salmond or even his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon. Instead the honour fell to young Scottish singer-songwriter Michael Yellowlees.

The Dunkeld-born Edinburgh University student had been handpicked by SNP chiefs to bring proceedings to a close at Perth Concert Hall with his new single Scotland is Ours. John Landau once claimed to have seen the future of rock and roll in Bruce Springsteen and it was another, somewhat more unlikely, John who was responsible for plucking Yellowlees from obscurity.

The young musician’s road to Perth began at a party meeting. Yellowlees explained: “I am a member of the SNP and I was invited to perform Scotland is Ours at a local party meeting. Our MSP is [finance minister] John Swinney and he liked the song and spoke to me about the possibility of performing it at the conference.

“A few weeks later I received a phone call from the conference organiser asking if I would like to perform the song at the conference.”

Spurred on by this, Yellowlees recorded the song and had a cd version produced for sale at the event. He is also in the process of recording his debut album which he hopes to have ready for release in November. While Scotland is Ours is very much in the folk-rock tradition he describes his other material as: “eclectic, some folk, some more rocky tracks and others bluesy.”

His debut single may lyrically be unashamedly political but the story behind the track is a deeply personal one. The words were written as a tribute to Yellowlees grandfather, John Cullen, a lifelong supporter of Scottish independence, who died in April. Adding to the poignancy it was Yellowlees father Robbie who helped him finish writing the song.

Yellowlees said: “One afternoon my dad came round and he helped finish the lyrics with a few lines that really worked.”

He is aware that his appearance is great exposure for an artist who has spent much of the last few years honing his musical skills as a busker. He clearly hopes that it will lead to increased interest in his forthcoming album and subsequent tour.

As for the big moment itself Yellowlees admited that performing this particular song in Perth could prove cathartic for him. He said: “My granddad never missed a [SNP] conference and this is my first one so yes it will be emotional being there.”

With the 2014 independence referendum and Glasgow Commonwealth Games on the horizon there could be a market for the track with its tartan This Land is Your Land feel, a comparison the artist acknowledges. Michael Yellowlees may be a name we are hearing a lot of over the next few years.

Original here

SNP hit back at Lib Dems over home rule

The SNP have once again slammed Lib Dem plans for extra powers for Holyrood as an alternative to independence.

In the wake of Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie’s conference address in Dunfermline, which highlighted the party’s home rule policy, on Saturday a SNP spokesperson said:  “The Lib Dems have been proposing Home Rule for one hundred years – how many more talking shops do they need?

“Far from being a way to achieve more powers for the Scottish Parliament, people are becoming increasingly aware that a No vote will roll back the achievements of devolution through continued Westminster austerity.

“Only a Yes vote can protect policies such as free personal care and free tuition, by giving Scotland the economic powers that can maximize the benefit of our vast natural and human resources and allow us to flourish.”

In his address Mr Rennie stressed that he saw home rule as a viable option saying: “Scotland has an alternative.

“If we want to keep our influential place in international bodies, but with strong domestic powers, people don’t have to look very far from this room.

“Home rule for Scotland in a federal United Kingdom keeps us as a powerful force for good in the world.”

Under the proposals a swathe of extra constitutional and financial powers would be devolved to Scotland from Westminster. Mr Rennie hailed the plan and said that it: “puts the Lib Dems, once again, ahead of the debate.”

The chairman of the committee responsible for the home rule proposals, Sir Menzies Campbell MP, claimed that they were a natural progression from the current devolution set-up. He said: “Since 1999 when devolution was in its infancy the Scottish Parliament has matured and grown in strength and authority.  The time has come for it to move to a fully-fledged partner as a Home Rule Parliament within a federal United Kingdom.

“With home rule and federalism the Scottish Parliament would have permanent powers, not powers on loan.  This would give us the mature constitutional authority required to work in partnership with the rest of the UK’s parliaments and assembles.”

The Lib Dems policy will not be able to be considered until after the 2014 independence referendum as there will be no second question regarding extra powers for the Scottish parliament.

Original here